A hiss from a snake is a sound you will always remember, and there is good reason.

A snake that hisses is not a good sign whether it is a captive animal or wild.

The hiss is a pre-warning before striking, if a snake has enough time to spot an incoming predator or threat, a snake will go into a tight S shaped and let out a loud hiss.

In doing so, this is a warning like a grumble of a lion. A snake’s hiss will always mean you stay away as I am not food and pose a threat to you.

Different species of snake hiss when provoked, cobras hissing will stand tall to make themselves seem bigger than they are. This seemingly makes them more difficult as a prey item as when they are on the ground flat.

Where does the snake hiss come from?

The hissing noise is produced by an organ called the “glottis”.

Snakes use the glottis for breathing, and it remains quiet when they are unalarmed. However, when a snake is provoked, it increases its breathing rate, forcing more air through the glottis.

During this process, the snake adjusts its glottis to generate the hissing sound. This mechanism is somewhat akin to how humans whistle, although in the case of snakes, the whistle originates from their windpipe, as opposed to human whistling, which relies on the lips.

Corn Snake Hissing

Why does a snake need to hiss?

As mentioned before, when a snake hisses, it’s like a signal telling you to keep your distance.

In the wild, snakes aren’t usually at the top of the food chain, so they need to watch out for other animals looking for a quick snack.

When a snake hisses, it can startle potential threats. As snake owners, we’ve noticed that when our boa constrictor hisses, it’s pretty clear that the snake wants to be left alone.

Another reason for the hissing is related to shedding. During the shedding process, a snake’s eyes turn cloudy blue, which messes with their vision and makes them act a bit differently.

If you have a snake that’s in the middle of shedding and it hisses at you, it’s best to give them some space until they’re done. Pushing it might make the snake associate hissing with avoiding being handled.

Do snakes hiss to each other?

Snakes are solitary creatures. Right from birth, they’re on their own, looking after themselves, and their interactions with other snakes are limited to the breeding season.

In movies, you might see snakes hissing at each other, but that’s purely fictional. Hissing isn’t a form of communication for any snake species in reality.

What types of snake are known for hissing?

Not all snakes will hiss, snakes such as the carpet python is a prime example, we have are yet to hear one of these snakes use vocal sounds to warn you off.

Snakes that hiss:


The list continues, 100% are capable of hissing but do not resort to this as a viable option before striking or evading conflict.

Why you pet snake is hissing at you

This is a common question, especially among new snake keepers who are transitioning to more advanced snake species in captivity.

Hissing can stress out a pet snake because it’s worried you might harm it. However, approximately 80% of pet snakes tend to become more relaxed over time with consistent handling routines. Still, there are some snakes that just can’t get used to being handled.

The best approach is to start with smaller, less intimidating species and follow our handling guide to increase the chances of preventing your snake from hissing and going into a defensive mode.

Hissing might also be due to cage aggression, which is a trait in some snake species. These snakes can be challenging to get out of their enclosures, but once they’re out, they usually tolerate handling just fine. If this is the case, using a thick handling glove can help you take the snake out without fear of being struck, and then you can remove the glove to interact with the snake more comfortably.


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